By Jenny Henkelman
It’s a long way around the world. When indie pop outfit An Horse pulled into Winnipeg in September, 2009, Kate Cooper and Damon Cox were more than a little run-down-looking, a little weary—offstage. Onstage, of course, the guitar-drums duo were impeccable and compelling, both in the UW quad and, I’m told, at the Lo Pub the same evening. Touring solidly this past year in support of their critically acclaimed debut full-length, Rearrange Beds, the pair are about to take a hiatus to write a new record. “We’ve nearly finished the cycle of the record we’re on,” said lead vocalist and guitarist Cooper.
The cycle has taken them from their home of Brisbane, Australia to the bright lights of New York City and The Late Show with David Letterman. It’s taken them to Europe and on tour with Silversun Pickups, Death Cab for Cutie, and Canada’s own Tegan and Sara. “They’re fun, great fun, good friends of ours and very supportive of us,” Cooper said of the Quin sisters. “They’ve worked really hard to be where they are and they’re very authentic.”
Authentic is a word you could use to describe An Horse’s beginnings. Cooper and Cox were co-workers at the last indie record store in Queensland. They were playing in other bands, but as Cooper says, started “mucking around” and found a chemistry between them that worked. “It wasn’t intentional,” Cox said.
The store where they worked has now closed, largely because, Cooper says, “People don’t buy CDs anymore.” An Horse aren’t digital haters; “Digital music’s cool, if people buy it,” she said. But there’s a dark flip side to that. “More people have stolen our record than bought it,” she said, and Cox had the anecdote to illustrate. “Someone had registered a website with Kate’s name, put up our photos and our record to download for free. It was one of those websites where you have to do a survey or something. So someone was getting money somehow. It was really shit and disappointing. We fucking worked really hard on that record,” he said. And the insults don’t stop there. “We’ve had people at shows come up to us and say, ‘You guys are fucking great! Hmm, this is your album. I’m not going to buy it, I’m going to go home and download it for free.’”
Disheartening words for people trying to make a living playing music, but An Horse seems less angry and more frustrated when it comes to piracy. “They don’t realize it’s not cool,” Cooper said.
An Horse might be a bit down, but they’ll be back in the saddle soon—they’re currently on tour with Tegan and Sara (including a January stop in Winnipeg). Their songs have appeared on TV shows like Friday Night Lights and One Tree Hill. Big things are ahead for these two individuals who are passionate about music and making it, in the basement of a record store or on an arena stage. As for the name? Cooper said it originated with a grammatical inside-joke sweater, about the usage rules for words that start with “H” and the indefinite article. Could “An horse” really be correct? “It’s a grey area,” she said, with a shrug.